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Malnourished Child's Parents Reject Plea Deal

Posted September 12, 2007

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— A Texas couple accused of starving their 4-year-old son to death turned down a deal Wednesday that would have spared them life sentences.

Authorities arrested Richard Dowen, 34, and Amber Dowen, 22, both of Riverside, Texas, in August 2005 and charged them with first-degree murder after Richard Dowen flagged down a sheriff's deputy along Interstate 40 in Durham to ask for directions to take his stepson to a hospital.

Randy Thomas Dowen died the next day at Duke University Medical Center. Prosecutors said he weighed between 12 and 19 pounds, and investigators said they believed the abuse lasted for several months.

An autopsy report showed the child had previous injuries and died from malnutrition, dehydration and complications from pneumonia.

It was unclear why the Dowens rejected Wednesday's plea deal, but attorneys said they will continue to negotiate. The couple is expected to go on trial next week.

The couple also has a daughter, who was 15 months old at the time of the Dowens' arrests. She was placed in the custody of Durham County Department of Social Services. It wasn't immediately known where the child is now.